Switzerland ranked second most transparent arms exporter

Armed Yemenis, loyal to the Houthi rebels, brandish weapons in Sana'a, Yemen in August 2016 Keystone

Germany and Switzerland are the most transparent major small arms exporters, the 2017 Small Arms Survey has revealed. The United States, Italy and Brazil accounted for 40% of all small arms exports in 2014. 

This content was published on September 13, 2017 minutes with agencies

After coming fifth in last year’s survey, when it gave up the lead position it held since 2007, Switzerland was ranked the second most transparent of 49 exporters reviewed, behind Germany but ahead of the Netherlands and Serbia. The least transparent were Iran, Israel, North Korea, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates, said the Geneva-based surveyExternal link, whose reporting focused on the period up to the end of 2014. 

Switzerland moved back up the table following the receipt of complete UN Commodity Trade Statistics data and a report of no “intangible transfers” [no export or import of technical plans, blueprints, knowhow, schemes or software to produce small arms, light weapons, ammunition or parts and accessories], the survey said. 

“Switzerland has taken it seriously and met with us to discuss the methodology of the barometer and made some adjustments to policies,” said Eric Berman, director of the Small Arms Survey. 

Overall, most countries improved their scores in the survey’s transparency barometer, but these positive developments were “very small and incremental”, said lead researcher Paul Holtom. 

He is hopeful that this week’s Arms Trade Treaty (ATT) talks in Geneva will give a boost to future transparency efforts. 

“With the ATT states, parties now have a legal obligation to provide information on small arms transfers. This will be a big bonus for us for getting information on conventional weapons that traditionally have not been part of the main transparency picture,” Holtom said. 

The big guns

According to the study, the world's biggest small arms exporters - countries that export at least $10 million (CHF9.6 million) per year in such weapons - delivered $6 billion in small arms, light weapons and ammunition in 2014. 

The US was the leading exporter ($1.1 billion), followed by Italy ($689 million), Brazil ($591 million), Germany ($475 million) and South Korea ($349 million). The fifteen largest exporters accounted for 80% of the total, whilst the US, Italy and Brazil alone covered 40% of exports of such weapons in 2014. Switzerland was ranked 14th with just over $100 million in sales. 

The US also remains the biggest importer of small arms and light weapons in 2014 ($2.2 billion), followed by Canada ($364 million), Indonesia ($331 million), Saudi Arabia ($209 million) and Germany ($198 million). 

The Small Arms Survey is an independent research project located at the Graduate Institute in Geneva. It is supported by the Swiss foreign ministry and contributions from ten countries including the US and the European Union. Researchers looked at trade data, including from the United Nations Commodity Trade Statistics Database, and national arms exports reports, for their report.

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